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There are movies that are made because the studios know they'll make
money. There are the movies that are made because someone believed they
would and they held out long enough to get them made. Then there are
the "actor's movies," the ones any actor worth his/her salt would love
to make themselves. This is Kevin Spacey's "actor's movie." That's not
a bad term in the least. The majority of the movie is set inside a New
Orleans bar, but the scenery doesn't get tiresome. This is due to the
fantastic performances of the cast. I love it when I can watch a movie
and forget that the person I'm watching is otherwise known as Gary
Sinise, Faye Dunaway, or Viggo Mortenson.
The film is also a classic tale of inhumanity, on how far people need to or will go to save their own skin, on choices. It sounds cliché, but the movie doesn't come across that way in the least. Overall, I recommend the film for a lazy Saturday afternoon, like it was for me.
Kevin Spacey's film debut impressed this viewer when this film debuted in 1996. On second viewing, recently, it still is an interesting film to watch, but it basically left a lot of questions unanswered because of the screen play Christian Forte wrote. One can see what attracted "Albino Alligator" to Mr. Spacey. It's a film where the situation that is created at the beginning of the film allows for intense performances by the first rate cast the director was able to put together. There are holes in the plot, like the enigmatic presence of Guy, the Canadian man one sees sitting at Dino's but whose role in the whole thing is not well explained by the screen play. Matt Dillon, as the man in charge of the bandits makes a good contribution. Faye Dunaway is excellent as Janet, the bar maid that must make tough decisions at the end of the film. William Fichtner is at his most intense playing Law, the loose cannon. Gary Sinise doesn't have much to do. The ensemble cast is good under Mr. Spacey's direction. John Spencer, Skeet Ulrich, M Emmet Walsh, Joe Mantegna, Melinda McGraw and Frankie Faison are effective in their roles. A film to be seen as a curiosity because it marks Kevin Spacey's film debut as a director.
Kevin Spacey is, of course, one of the best actors we have, and he shows
talent in his first time out as director in this crime story. Specifically,
he does a good job creating a tense atmosphere in such a claustrophobic
environment as a bar. And although there's a lot of camera movement, it's
not overdone. Also, he's good with his actors, especially Dillon, Dunaway,
But the movie suggests Spacey should learn about reading scripts next time. The movie harks back to films like PETRIFIED FOREST, but is little more than a clone of them, and writer Christian Forte often falls back on obscenities to substitute for character development and plot. And some of the scenes strain credulity, like the ending.
Any hostage drama can't help but get compared to 'Dog Day Afternoon' and will therefore be found lacking, but 'Albino Alligator', while not without a few flaws, does a credible job. Kevin Spacey shows some promise as a director, but the script sometimes let's him down. Even so it's pretty entertaining, and the best thing about it is the outstanding cast. You might think Spacey would call upon his Usual Suspects buddies but instead we have Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise and William Fichtner as criminals on the run, Faye Dunaway, M. Emmett Walsh, Skeet Ulrich, John Spencer and Viggo Mortensen as the occupants of an after hours bar they hold hostage, and Joe Mantegna as the cop on the scene. All the actors performances are good, but I especially enjoyed Fichtner's redneck sociopath and Mortensen's mysterious French Canadian who may not be the average joe he appears to be. Both actors have been favourites of mine for some time. 'Albino Alligator' is no masterpiece, but if you want to see some good actors do their thing I suggest you check it out, you won't be disappointed.
As everyone already knows, Kevin Spacey is an extremely good actor who never does a bad job acting. The man is also a great singer (check out the soundtrack to "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"), so it's not a surprise that he turns out to be multitalented; he's obviously a great director as well. This is the first movie he has ever made and it is such an engrossing and interesting movie. The acting is also superb, Matt Dillon doing such a great job was a surprise to me. The story itself is also interesting, and I liked the fact that this movie was in many ways theatrical. It doesn't work in every movie, but with this premise it worked out fine. Let's hope Spacey directs many more movies!
by Dane Youssef
A gang of crooks. The perfect plan. It all goes wrong. They're in trouble. The police are outside. They're cornered. What are they gonna do now?
The movie seems like it's trying to be a combination of the acting workshop, the "indie" film and the theater.
It's the kind of things that actors love--it's kind of like a workshop or a play because it mostly consists of tight focusing on the actors acting... acting angry, tense, scared, conversing, scheming, planning--giving the performers a lot of free range to really ham it all up.
A trio of crooks, one leader, one goon, one brother, come up with a big heist scheme... and a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. To top things off, there's a bit of a "fender-bender" and one of the crooks in flung through the back of the windshield.
The cops are on their tail and they stumble into a bar named poetically (and leadenly) "Dino's Last Chance."
Spacey, as a director, tries to keep the focus on the actors' performances and delivery of dialouge. He pans over to a bright passion-red cigarette ad of a smoking and smoldering Bogart. And he keeps all the violence off-screen, really.
I think that was a mistake. Focusing on the intensity and gruesome violent scenes would have given the movie some edge.
The problem with the movie is that it moves too slow and suffers from miscasting in almost every role. Matt Dillon ("Drugstore Cowboy" and "Wild Things") seems too young and too idealistic to be the leader of this gang.
Gary Sinese seems to brooding and deep in thought to be a spineless tag-along with these guys and Joe Mantaga is effective as the traditional routine foul-swearing mad-dog police lieutenant who's all thumbs, but he isn't given anything to really do here.
William Fischter is the only actor who is believable in his role as a brainless grunt who just wants to spill blood.
And the crooks are in a tense situation where they either go to jail or they try to think of some way out of this.
Spacey lacks the ability to create a lot of tension and keep it going. The characters are mostly chatting away, trying to think of a plan... and they're to calm and too articulate. There's even a scene where the crooks are playing pool with a whole swarm of armed cops right outside, ready to strike. At one point, one of the crooks even call the police who are right outside the bar. Oh brother. Oh bother.
These cops are going to either blow them away or going to lock them up. Shouldn't the holed-up crooks be a little scared, a little uneasy? Meanwhile, all the real action is happening inside.
Someone whips out a gun, a baseball bat, which leads to an ugly confrontation off-screen and there's one more casualty that happens that's... well, kinda sad. But...
Faye Dunaway also should have spent more time with a dialect coach, improving on her New Orleans accent. Skeet Ullrich is fine in a smaller part.
A cop listening in reaches for a pack of matches at the absolute worst time is a nice look. And so is a scene where someone goes right through the rear windshield.
The dialouge is obviously trying to go for a David Mamet approach and it's as profane, but never as realistic or as insightful. I'm guessing Christian Forte is a fan Mamet fan.
The movie feels like too much of what it really is... a really low-budget movie with an actor behind the camera for the first time directing other actors from a script that's "not bad, but needs a few more re-writes." Spacey shows he's not a terrible director, but he lacks a sort of feel for "shaping a movie" and it feels like he's just filming actors act.
These actors are all talented and could work with the material, but they all feel out of place. As I said before, the movie really suffers from miscasting.
I don't mean that the wrong actors were cast. I think they found just the right cast, but placed them in all the wrong roles. I think switching some of the roles would've helped immensely.
Having veteran mob actor Joe Mantagna play the leader of the pack, Gary Sinese as the angry police lieutenant outside on his bullhorn giving orders and barking at his troops, keeping Fischter in his "bloodthirsty goon" part and Matt Dillion as the sacrificial lamb. That would have been a big improvement.
When some actors direct, it works. They can even win Oscars for it. But a lot of the time, when actors direct, they have a tendency to just focus on the performances. Just shoot the actors acting.
Sometimes it works... but they need a good showcase for it. An excuse for it.
Hostage situations are all pretty much the same in real life just like coming-of-age stories so it's only natural that movies about them will go from point A to point B as well.
There are a few really great entries into this genre.' Spacey himself appeared in a similar movie about hostage situations: "The Negotiator."
This certainly won't become a cult classic, let alone one of AFI's 100. Still, it does have a few nice moments and personal touches, but in the end, it's instantly forgettable and the kind of movie that would play best on regular TV. It's just not worth going out of your way to see.
I give a 3 out of 10.
Spacey's other directorial credit, "Beyond The Sea" was reportedly a better effort. Hmmm... maybe it's true. You need to fail before you succeed.
--One Bad Alabaster Crocodile, Dane Youssef
The look and feel of this film is that of live theatre. The minimalist approach in set and costume as well as simple, yet dramatic lighting, create an intimacy and immediacy which accents character development and showcases each actor's individual talents. Beautifully written, directed and acted, it's worth a look, and a look again. Most notable is the character of Law, portrayed by William Fichtner, whose electric intensity keeps the nerves raw and the eyes riveted. Kudos to Kevin Spacey for a deliciously original directorial debut.
Kevin Spacey is obviously an amazing acting talent, but this film proves that he's almost as good a director. This film was satisfying from beginning to end, and it just got more interesting as it went along. The story is fairly simple, but it was powerfully performed by a hugely talented cast. Dillon, Sinise, and Dunaway all give stand-out performances, but really, the whole cast is top-notch. Mantegna wasn't given as much material to work with, but he still had the only truly funny scene in a generally serious movie, and yet the humor didn't seem out of place. There is certainly room for Spacey to improve as a director, but this is most definitely a great way to start off.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kevin Spacey assembled a first-rate character cast for his directorial debut
in 1996: Faye Dunaway, Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise, etc. He gave them an
intelligent script and a film noirish style to work with. Faye plays a
Cajun barkeep in a 20's vintage speakeasy in modern-day New Orleans run by M
Emmett Walsh. Dillon & Sinise play thieves who hold the bar and its few
inhabitants (two men drinking and a young man playing pool) hostage late one
cold morning along with their psycho accomplice (played by the versatile
William Fichtner) after a shootout with police. It rolls along at a
leisurely pace and reminds me of a filmed play, not unlike "The Petrified
Forest" but with less ham & almost zero humor. One of the hostages is
brutally beaten to death and Dunaway reacts beautifully; the
tension-breakers are few and far between. Loads of foul language including
the one hilarious moment involving the lead cop (Joe Mantegna) and a nosy
reporter, the only time obscenity is really crucial to the plot.
If you like your cops & robbers films stagy and smart, check this one out, but don't expect a lot of action.
Kevin Spacey's first try at the director's chair is a nice one to say the least, but he could have done much much more with the actors. There are just to many great and known actors in this movie and sadly not enough screen time for every one of them. But this movie has other things to offer; besides the good photography, the nice music and a strong cast it draws its energy from the script that has some great moment(albino aligator), but somehow fails to deliver in the end. "Albino Aligator" will appeal to those who like a dark crime movie but is just to plain to be something more. 6/10
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